The end of Caerphilly County Borough Council’s £4 million pay scandal could be in sight – although there are fears it could drag on until March next year.
The Welsh Government appointed investigator probing allegations of misconduct against the council’s chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan, is currently drawing up their findings.
Caerphilly Council suspended Mr O’Sullivan on full pay in 2013 after he was accused of ordering unlawful pay rises for himself and his colleagues.
While deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett and head of legal Daniel Perkins were paid off after criminal charges were dropped against the trio, the council could not reach an agreement with Mr O’Sullivan.
As a result, a designated independent person (DIP) was appointed by the Welsh Government in 2017 to look into the disciplinary allegations.
The council, which has funded the investigation, said it would be “inappropriate to comment any further at this stage”.
But it remains unclear if further payments towards Mr O’Sullivan, and the investigation, will be required while the report is being written.
In December 2018, councillors begrudgingly approved extra payments of £242,000 to cover salary and legal costs until July 31 this year.
They will now be asked on June 4 to extend the contract of the current interim chief executive, Christina Harrhy, until March 31, 2020, to ensure “continuity” for the organisation.
“Taxpayers could again be asked to foot the bill”
But Councillor Colin Mann, leader of the council’s Plaid Cymru group, described the request as “worrying”.
“It suggests that the senior pay saga, which led to the chief executive being paid to stay at home for more than six years, is set to extend past July,” said Cllr Mann.
“Any extension suggests that council taxpayers could again be asked to foot the bill.”
Plaid Cymru also claim the true cost of the scandal is around £6.3 million if the cost of the pay increases, which sparked the scandal, are included.
Councillor Kevin Etheridge, leader of the council’s Independents, raised concerns about how long it would take the investigator to compile their results.
He said: “Is the report going to take days, weeks, or months? It’s just more delays, more uncertainty and potentially more costs.”
The Welsh Government has been notified that members are being asked to consider an extension of Ms Harrhy’s interim appointment.